Germany, a Companion to German Studies

By Jethro Bithell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI

GERMAN HISTORY FROM 1937 TO 1952

I. FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR WAR, 1937-39

IN his speech to the Reichstag to celebrate the fourth anniversary of his accession to power Hitler announced that the period of surprises was over. It was in 1937, however, that the Führer made up his mind to reveal the fundamental aggressiveness of his foreign policy in ways which he knew were bound to make war all but inevitable. The rearmament of Germany was by now well advanced. Economic preparations had been inaugurated when the Four-Year Plan, which was intended to make the Reich self-sufficient in raw materials, was announced at the Nuremberg Party Congress on 9th September 1936. Göring was made responsible for the execution of the new Plan, which brought him into conflict with Dr Schacht (p. 164), at that time Minister of Economic Affairs as well as President of the Reichsbank. As such Schacht had enormously increased the economic pressure which the Germans could exert abroad, especially in South-eastern Europe. After the slump years the peasant countries were thankful for Germany to buy up their corn; only later did they find that she could or would pay them in nothing but her own industrial goods, including all kinds of arms. Before long they found themselves more than half dependent upon her economic and military system.

The political prospect was encouraging to Hitler. The Spanish Civil War created dangerous friction between the Powers in the West, while providing useful rehearsals for the Luftwaffe. Once again, the Fiihrer held, the decadence of the British and French was evident. Mussolini's reference to a Berlin-Rome Axis in his speech in Milan on 1st November 1936 was followed by his pompous visit to Germany at the end of September 1937; from that time Hitler knew that the Italian alliance was ready to his hand whenever he should wish. This knowledge contributed to the pronouncements he made to the secret military conference which he summoned to the Reichskanzlei in Berlin on 5th November 1937. On this momentous occasion he proposed to implement the cardinal political doctrine of Mein Kampf (p. 168) in a war of conquest, to begin not later

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